Product DetailsFamily Stone--For anyone who views holiday gatherings with equal parts joy and dread, The Family Stone offers plenty of comedy to identify with. Writer-director Thomas Bezucha's slapstick premise begins when Everett (Dermot Mulroney) brings his fiancÚ Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet his family for Christmas. It's an instant disaster when parents Sybil (Diane Keaton) and Kelly (Craig T. Nelson) agree with their gay, deaf son Thad (Ty Giordano, who is actually hearing impaired), pot-smoking son Ben (Luke Wilson) and daughters Amy (Rachel McAdams) and Susannah (Elizabeth Reaser) that Meredith is way too uptight to be welcomed into their family. Meredith recruits her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to help her thaw the Stone family cold front, and after building a solid emotional foundation for his holiday comedy, Bezucha starts to stack the deck with plot developments that, while heartwarming, border on the absurd. You either go with the movie's flow or you don't, and with this appealing cast (featuring some really nice work by Keaton, Nelson, Parker and Danes) it's easy to forgive Bezucha's unlikely blend of yuletide cheer, petty animosities, and romantic tables turned in the blink of an eye. Toss in a case of terminal illness and you've got a sad-happy tearjerker that works in spite of itself. If you don't recognize at least part of your own holiday clan in The Family Stone, you probably haven't been paying attention. Secret Life of Bees--Headed by an all-star cast of women, The Secret Life of Bees is the heartwarming and well-told story of a young girl who finds love and acceptance from a trio of independent sisters. The Secret Life of Bees is based on the bestselling book of the same name by Sue Monk Kidd and centers around the plight of 14-year-old Lily (Dakota Fanning). Assuming the burden for her mother's premature death, she has a precarious relationship with her abusive father T. Ray (Paul Bettany). Lily's only friend is her caregiver Rosaleen (Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson). Set in South Carolina in 1964, when civil rights wasn't a given, Rosaleen's life is threatened by racists who'd just as soon see her dead than exercise her right to vote. Lily runs away with her to a town she believes may hold the secrets of her mother's life. There the pair meet the Boatwright sisters August (Queen Latifah), June (Alicia Keys) and May (Sophie Okonedo)--who produce the area's famous Black Madonna honey. They eventually provide Lily with the unconditional love she never felt she had and also show Rosaleen that being a black woman in the South doesn't mean she can't have a sense of worth. The Secret Life of Bees doesn't try to pass itself off as a historical documentation of race relations in the 1960s. But the fictional slice of life still resonates because of the feelings of injustice that it stirs up. Though the film is written to show the disparity between blacks and whites, there is always a strong sense of hope, thanks to the lead actresses who bring empathy and dignity to their roles. Hudson exhibits some of the same quiet grace that Regina Taylor brought to her role as the family housekeeper in the superb TV series I'll Fly Away. Latifah has the part of wise matriarch down pat, even when she's playing a sister rather than a mother. And it's clear that Fanning is making a seamless transition from kid to young adult roles. Whether she's giving an impassioned monologue or listening thoughtfully, Fanning brings nuance and intelligence to her role.
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